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Showdown set over public funds in WV court race

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Are timelines in the West Virginia Supreme Court public campaign financing rules guidelines or hard and fast deadlines?

The answer to that question could determine the fate of two candidates’ campaigns for the nonpartisan election in May.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today that Justice Brent Benjamin and Beckley lawyer Bill Wooton should retain close to $500,000 each in public campaign financing, saying the public interest in limiting the influence of outside money on judicial elections requires a liberal interpretation of the regulation.

A key issue is whether the candidates missed a deadline in the legislative rule to file for certification of their public financing with the State Election Commission — Wooton by one day, Benjamin by nine minutes.

Supreme Court candidate Beth Walker, who is challenging both candidates’ public campaign financing, contends that there is a 30-year precedent in Supreme Court rulings to strictly enforce campaign deadlines, arguing that the legislation does not give the SEC “any discretion…

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